Matteo Salvini in 2018 (Source: Quirinale.it)

Will the pro-Russian European right ever change its view on Putin?

Olivier Bault

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Similar reactions to the Russian aggression can be observed on the right wing, which is suspected of having a particular weakness towards Russia in Italy or Germany (the Spanish VOX has hardly ever had pro-Putin tendencies at the level of political leaders, although some of its electorate may be sympathetic to Putin).

On February 26th, Giorgia Meloni, leader of Fratelli d’Italia, announced at the annual CPAC conference organized by American conservative circles that, “in the face of this unacceptable attack, being here is a way to show which side we are on in this conflict. We are on the side of the law, we are on the side of freedom and we are on the side of a proud nation that is now teaching the world what it means to fight for freedom”.

The Meloni party is ahead of the Salvini League in polls and is, like the League, among the signatories of the declaration on the future of Europe signed in July 2021 by 15 parties from 14 countries, including by the Polish Law and Justice party, the Hungarian Fidesz, and the French National Rally of Marine Le Pen.

Today, League leader Matteo Salvini is being criticized for his statement in 2019, in which he said that “Putin is currently one of the best rulers in the world…alongside Trump”. Has he changed his mind? In a statement published by the League on February 24th, it can be read that Salvini’s party, “condemns Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine” and that, “there is no excuse [for this]; we need a common commitment to end violence immediately”.

Salvini adopted a pacifist and humanitarian stance, calling for an end to the war and engaging in aid for Ukrainian refugees, even going directly to the Polish-Ukrainian border. As the only leader of a major party in Italy – in the second Western European country most dependent on Russian gas after Germany – Salvini spoke out against the sanctions. In contrast to him, the leader of Fratelli d’Italia spoke in favor of sanctions after the start of Russian aggression, if they were effective and more burdensome for Russia than for Italy. In January, she was against the sanctions already imposed on Russia, which, in her opinion, were harmful to the Italian economy.

Troubles of the AfD

The most pro-Russian in the most pro-Russian – next to Italy – country of the European Union, is probably experiencing the greatest difficulties after Russia’s attack on Ukraine. The Alternative for Germany (AfD) is a party that is not ideologically homogeneous. For several years now, it has been demanding the lifting of the sanctions imposed on Russia after the annexation of Crimea. The pro-Russian attitude of AfD is one of the reasons why the party could not be among the signatories of last year’s declaration of European conservative parties on the future of Europe, as the attitude it represents is unacceptable to the Polish Law and Justice party.

Like the supporters of Zemmour or Le Pen in France, or supporters of the League and FdI in Italy and VOX in Spain, there is a popular among AfD view that the USA and NATO have been provoking Russia for years in an attempt to include Ukraine in Euro-Atlantic structures. Today, some of the leaders of this formation, such as the leader of the AfD group in the Bundestag, Alice Weidel, are in favor of the sanctions. Others are still against them. On the other hand, press releases from AfD

It is worth noting that while AfD is officially in favor of leaving the EU, it is in favor of Germany remaining in NATO. Currently, AfD not only supports the decision to increase defense spending. Top politicians within the party are even expressing their delight on how good it is to be in this military alliance.

This article was published in March 2022 in “Do Rzeczy” magazine.